Vietnam's Central Highlands struggles with historic drought

VietNamNet Bridge - In the severe droughtthat has lasted for several months, water levels of hundreds of reservoirs in the Central Highlands provinces are now at 30-40% of capacity. In Dak Lak, 250 lakes are dry to the bottom and the numbers are 17-40-5 lakes in Dak Nong, Kon Tum, and Gia Lai, respectively.



This is the 69 hectare Iamonong Lake in Chu Pah District of Gia Lai Province.

Not only reservoirs, all the wells of 30-40 meter deep also don’t have water. "I dug to the depth of 42 meters but the well dried up after ten minutes of operation of a pumper. I cannot dig it deeper because I don’t have money to pay for it and because workers hit rocks already," said Ho Duy Hoang, the owner of 3 hectares of coffee in Chu Se district.

Due to a lack of water, thousands of hectares of rice fields in Gia Lai Province withered and are used as animal feed.

Ms. Ro Cham Chut in Chu Puh District said that her rice field had drooped because of drought and she had to feed her cows with the withered paddy. 

The shortage of water for irrigation also killed hundreds of thousands of hectares of coffee in the Central Highlands. 

Ms. Nguyen Thi Nga in Chu Puh District has 5 hectares of coffee, but most of the trees were withered because they were watered only once in the past two months.

Many families destroyed their pepper gardens because there was no water for irrigation.

"We have to save water for daily life so water for irrigation is luxury. The pepper helped us enrich ourselves in the past few years but now we have to destroy them. Our village has never faced such severe droughtlike this year," said Mr. Vo Lam Ba in Chu Puh District.

Along the roads to the pepper and coffee gardens, people have to dig and drill new wells or deepen the old ones to find water. Many gardeners said they had to borrow bank capital or from their friends to dig wells because a well costs VND60-VND70 million ($3,000-$3,500) each.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, more than 30,000 people in the Central Highlands lack running water. Meteorological stations in the Central Highlands forecasted that droughts will persist and reach the peak in the coming time.

Water for daily activities has also become a big problem for people in the drought-hit region. 

In Hbong Commune, Gia Lai Province, the local authorities have given local people thousands of barrels of water for free.

Mr. Ro Cham Han said each family is given three barrels of 20 liters of water, which is enough for 10 days.  

The Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control reported that around 377,362 households living in the south central, central highlands and southern region of Vietnam were influenced by the long- lasting drought and saltwater influx.

As statistics, 221, 784 hectares of rice crops, 9, 649 hectares of flower and vegetable crops, 85, 650 hectares of fruit crops and 3, 056 aqua crops were destroyed completely, an estimated damage of VND2, 636 billion.

This year, rainy season has started late therefore water level on the southern, central and northern region’s rivers has been dropping sharply. Particularly, the highest water level on Red River is measured at 1, 84 meters, and the lowest water level at 0, 28 meters, added the weather forecast center. 


Photo: VNE

Maximum efforts to save Central Highlands from drought

Authorities from the Central Highlands are exerting every effort to save locals from drought as thousands of lakes, rivers and wells in the region have dried out.

In production, the region has prioritised water for long-term and highly economic commercial crops such as coffee and pepper.

The Central Highlands Steering Committee is asking localities to closely follow weather developments and promptly disburse emergency capital resources to support locals in coping with drought.

Dak Lak province has poured billions of VND into drilling 35 wells in Buon Don and Eo H’Leo districts, as well as install pumps and water containers at communes and schools which seriously lack water.

It has also financially supported poor households to dredge wells for water.

Meanwhile, Gia Lai province has helped locals run water pumping machines, built public water supply facilities at drought-stricken communes, and transported free water to areas where wells could not be dug.

Currently, the Central Highlands has 7,108 hectares of rice and nearly 60,000 hectares of coffee dangerously drying out. Productivity is forecast to be reduced by 30-70 percent.

Dak Lak is the hardest hit with over 21,000 hectares of withering rice and 13,000 households facing water shortages.

If there is no rain in early April, the area of dryed-out crops could reach 167,000 hectares. About 34,000 families in the Central Highlands might soon be faced with a water crisis.

Rice allocated to drought-hit provinces

The Prime Minister has asked the Finance Ministry to allocate more than 5,200 tonnes of rice sourced from the national reserve, to five provinces suffering from the severe drought caused by El Nino.

They include the northern provinces of Ha Nam and Lai Chau, the central provinces of Quang Binh and Binh Dinh and the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum.

Earlier, over 1,500 tonnes of rice was earmarked for the northern mountainous provinces of Lang Son and Dien Bien.

On March 31, the Central Committee of the Vietnam Red Cross Society visited and presented gifts worth 378 million VND (17,100 USD) to 1,000 poor households in Thuan Nam district, in the central province of Ninh Thuan.

In March, Ninh Thuan announced that 34 of its communes are suffering from drought and water shortages.

Bac Lieu announces disaster emergency level 2

On March 31, the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu declared a level 2 emergency situation for drought and saline intrusion, which has plagued the province for months.

The natural disaster has taken its toll on Bac Lieu since October last year and is expected to continue till the end of June.

Nearly 14,000 hectares of rice fields have been damaged, at a cost of more than 150 billion VND (6.75 million USD).

The provincial body in charge of agriculture forecasts 2,300 more hectares will be affected by water shortages, with over 500 hectares ruined completely.

Water supply for local households is also running out. As of February’s end, Bac Lieu saw a reduction of two metres in the level of groundwater. Many of the province’s 101 water supply facilities have to work around the clock, and even then, residents still lack water during peak hours.

Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Duong Thanh Trung ordered localities and districts to calculate the damage and how much financial assistance will be needed. So disaster-hit families can soon receive aid and funds to continue their production.

Local famers have also been warned not to plant early summer-autumn crops as adequate water for irrigation is not guaranteed.

Thirsty hydropower plants stop production

Gia Lai Electricity Joint Stock Company said four out of 14 hydroelectric plants under its management have stopped generating electricity because the water levels in several reservoirs are at “dead levels”, which means plants cannot operate.

The plants forced to halt production are Ia Đrăng 1, Ia Lốp, Ia Puch 3 and Ia Meur 3.

Other plants have had to cut production, running between two and three hours a day.

According to the Gia Lai Electricity Joint Stock Company, the company will examine and repair equipment with the plants are out of operation.

The company will also focus on dredging canals and spillways.

The water flow running into the reservoirs in the region was too low, affecting electricity production in the region and irrigation.

Most of the reservoirs have water levels five metres below the average volume in previous years. Some of them have been depleted, causing difficulties for the plants.

The plants have produced between 30 and 64 per cent of the electricity they produced in the same period last year.

Meanwhile, a report from the National Electricity Moderation Centre showed that 15 out of 51 plants left the competitive power generation market as of March 11. Hydropower plants have to prioritise to provide water for agricultural production and people’s lives in downstream areas.

Dozens of hydroelectric plants in the Central and Central Highlands regions, including those with large capacities such as Hàm Thuận and Buôn Tua Srah, have been running in moderation or have stopped generating electricity due to the drought.

The existing drought in the Central Highlands is expected to continue until June this year, so power generation will decrease even more as the water shortage continues.

VNA


Le Ha
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